Papamma, a domestic worker in Bangalore, took her employers to court and managed to receive a favourable judgment. This is a historic victory for perhaps the most vulnerable segment of unorganised workers, made possible by the support of a trade union, a dedicated team of advocates and a labour officer who adjudicated objectively.
With the upcoming International Labour Conference later this year, there is a buzz about a new legal international instrument providing ‘decent working conditions’ to domestic workers globally. However, as of now, laws benefiting unorganised workers in India, including domestic workers, are few, and the sad reality is that even these most often remain on paper.
It is heartening therefore when the law is actually applied, giving these workers their due. This happened recently to Papamma, a domestic worker in Bangalore who was paid a pittance during her long years of service — 1978 to 2007. Worse, she was discharged abruptly with no provision for retirement. In her words: “I came with empty hands and I left (after 31 years of working) with empty hands.”